Former Cisterician Abbey Complex in Ląd on the Warta river, Ląd
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Former Cisterician Abbey Complex in Ląd on the Warta river

Ląd

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Ląd was formerly one of the leading locations in Greater Poland. A Slavic stronghold stood here in the 8th-9th centuries. During the fragmentation of Poland it was the seat of Mieszko III the Old, who brought the Cistercians from Altenberg to Ląd in 1145. The Cistercians’ active participation in current issues of Christianity (missionary work) resulted in the Order being granted important privileges, such as being made independent of the authority and jurisdiction of diocesan bishops. The Cistercian principles of contemplation, work, avoidance of contacts with the outside world, liturgical simplicity, and the rejection of ceremonial pomp were even reflected in their austere and simple architecture. The management methods employed by the friars had an impact on the economics of the lands within their estates. They practised livestock and arable farming, produced handicrafts, and developed the fishing economy. They were renowned for the construction of mills, breweries and ironworks. By sharing their knowledge they also played an educational role. Ląd was a well-organised and profitable estate, which led to its becoming the subject of a long-term conflict between two dukes: Boleslus the Pious and Casimir of Cuiavia. Up until 1539 Poles were not admitted to the Cistercian congregation in Ląd; this was finally changed by the decree of Sigismund I. The abbey was closed down in 1819 by the ruling authorities, and since 1921 its buildings have belonged to the Salesians.

The former abbey provides an exceptional example of a complex with Gothic and late Baroque features, as well as being one of the most significant ecclesiastical historic monuments in Greater Poland, closely linked to the history of this region. The original monastery and Church of the Virgin Mary and St Nicholas were comprehensively remodelled in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Gothic cloisters (latter half of the 14th century) survive, as does the chapter house (c. 1360) with its tripartite stellar vaults supported on a ten-sided pillar. The Oratory of St James, featuring heraldic frescoes (c. 1360-1370) and an elaborate donation scene (unique in Poland), is a gem of medieval art. The church was extensively remodelled in the latter half of the 17th century. Work was initially carried out by T. Poncino (1651-1652), and later continued by J. Catenazzi, implementing a design by J. S. Bellotti (1681-1689). In 1728-1735 the eminent Roman architect Pompeo Ferrari, who worked in Greater Poland at the turn of the 17th century, created the dynamic central section of the interior, covered by a 38-metre-high elliptical dome adorned with frescoes by G. W. Neunhertz (1731-1732). Stucco, carved and painted decoration was also added to the interior. The decorative scheme was designed by Ferrari and a group of artists including Adam Swach, who produced a series of paintings with a nationally unique iconographic programme, depicting the history of the Cistercian Order in Poland and Europe. The high quality furnishings include fine Baroque altars, Mannerist stalls and a Baroque organ front.

The complex is especially notable for its authenticity. The monastery was expanded in Baroque style, and retains this form (with minor alterations) to this day. Its relationship with its immediate and more distant surroundings remains evident: the routes linking it with the former castellan’s stronghold in Ląd and with properties owned by the Cistercians of Ląd are still traceable. The present-day appearance of the abbey bears witness to the influence of European traditions, styles and artistic communities. The church represents the last and best of Ferrari’s ecclesiastical designs, strongly inspired by the work of Francesco Borromini (in particular by his Church of S. Ivo della Sapienza in Rome), and expertly combining innovative structural solutions with the existing historic fabric.

General information

  • Type: ecclesiastical complex
  • Chronology: koniec XII - XVIII w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Ląd
  • Location: Voivodeship wielkopolskie, district słupecki, commune Lądek
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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